As a generation that craves social awareness and racial justice, we value the importance of where, why and by whom things are created/implemented. It is with this consciousness that Muslim Girl supports and promotes New Jersey rapper, singer, songwriter, poet AND recording artist, Shahroz. This man of many talents has worked with artists such as Joe Budden, Dipset and Emilio Rojas.
According to his biography, Shahroz is an officially licensed writer by ASCAP (The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) and has secured a distribution deal under Sony. His music is currently available to us on various platforms such as Apple Music, Spotify, Tidal and Google Play. Aside from being a Muslim, what makes Shahroz and his music so inspiring and vital to listen to?
Musical artists have been using their talents on platforms to spark conversations about issues in our communities for decades. Think: Nas, Tupac, Mary J. Blige, Kendrick Lamar, Common, even Bruce Springsteen–the list goes on and on. So why are people more inclined to listen to real talk over a beat rather than watch a documentary? It’s digestible.
Sure, we all can play a song and submerge ourselves into its beat. What you can also do, explains Shahroz in an interview with Muslim Girl, is “listen to the words closely, rap is really the modern poetry when used correctly.” This is exactly why Shahroz does what he does. While not every song he produces has poetic meaning to it, Shahroz tells us that he makes a conscious effort to create a balance between “conscious records and just good hip-hop music.”
When asked about his music, he answered:
“I think you can be lyrical and still adopt a modern sound that sonically is something people want to hear. As a hip-hop artist who happens to be Muslim, I feel like we’re underrepresented in the music game and entertainment in general, so one of my goals is to bring that forward. And I want to bring it forward in a way of someone who isn’t out drinking and smoking weed to fit in because a majority of Muslims can’t relate to that figure then. Being Muslim and Pakistani opens doors for me to discuss issues that other artists can’t, and shed light on them. Also…I hope everyone listens to my new album “No Rose Without Thorns” so we can really shift the narrative when it comes to music, media, and sports. I try to support all the dope up and coming Muslim artists, actors, journalists, athletes etc because we need better representation and we need people to address the issues that impact our community.”
So what exactly is Shahroz speaking about in his songs? Let’s discuss his newest album No Rose Without Thorns that was released on April 12.
More specifically, let us take a look at this one song in particular titled Color Me In. Take a listen to the song linked below before we move on to the discussion. Shahroz provided us with lyrics on Genius for those who want to follow along.
After a listen-through of the song, Muslim Girl found essential messages in verses one and two. Read below:
[Excerpt from Verse 1]
Let me paint this picture for a minute
Put your people on a ship and whip it
Or take over your lands and your village
Now imagine what a kid grows up thinkin’
Swear to God, the effects, they be tricklin’
Swear to God, the effects, they be tricklin’
This opening verse is compacted with a lot of dense historical analysis. Here, Shahroz is describing both the act and effect of colonialism. When countries experience colonialism (i.e. kidnapping and torturing people, taking/stealing lands, etc.), they give birth to generations of children that carry the weight and consequences of their history. Shahroz gives an example of this repercussion in the following verse.
[Excerpt from Verse 2]
Here’s a part of my culture that I don’t like
Talk about a girl, first thing – is her skin light?
Damn. Why you so focused on the surface?
Sippin’ tea, in a meme, lookin’ like kermit
Damn. Why you gotta act like a puppet?
Here, the rapper acknowledges the ripple-effect of colorism (specifically in nations that have been colonized). These effects cannot be understood without examining and discussing the generational discriminatory bias and exploitation that is embedded in history.
As most of us learned through our history courses, the colonized were mainly Africans, Asians and Native-Americans. Inversely, the colonizers are mainly recognized as the countries in Western Europe (ex: Spain, Portugal, France, England). In addition to erasing cultures and stealing lands, these colonizers policed thought-processes of race (in addition to languages) to assert their dominance. This is when the idea of superiority became synonymous with skin of a lighter pigment. The binary of superiority/inferiority discourse remains when there is still an obsession with achieving and/or being bias towards lighter-skin. Think: skin-bleaching, skin color in relation to poverty, social class, and/or opportunities, etc.
Now while Shahroz is specifically talking about his Pakistani culture here, he also recognizes this same issue in the entire Muslim Ummah. We are prime examples of a community that faces the challenge of colorism. The simplest example of this that Shahroz references is the idea of choosing a spouse. We know one too many families that refuse to accept a son- or daughter-in-law because of his or her darker skin, a form of discrimination we now understand was derived from colonialism. When the lighter-skinned individual became the most respected in a community throughout history, every other shade became degraded and ashamed.
Shahroz challenges this unfortunate norm by asking the rhetorical question; why are we still puppets to their [light-skin] show? It is vital we recognize that whenever we are biased against a shade of skin, we are discriminating against our own people. Rather than following their game of puppetry, we should cut the strings controlling us and, instead, connect with each other to strengthen the community and embrace all colors of skin.
Shahroz then goes on to encourage in the same verse:
Say you’re against it but still do it endlessly
How can you people just live so pretentiously?
Black kings, black queens
Brown kings, brown queens
You were made just the way God wanted
You are great, and they can’t take from it
This specific part of the song reminds us of the following important message from the Qur’an:
يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ أَلَا إِنَّ رَبَّكُمْ وَاحِدٌ وَإِنَّ أَبَاكُمْ وَاحِدٌ أَلَا لَا فَضْلَ لِعَرَبِيٍّ عَلَى أَعْجَمِيٍّ وَلَا لِعَجَمِيٍّ عَلَى عَرَبِيٍّ وَلَا لِأَحْمَرَ عَلَى أَسْوَدَ وَلَا أَسْوَدَ عَلَى أَحْمَرَ إِلَّا بِالتَّقْوَى أَبَلَّغْتُ
(O people, your Lord is one and your father Adam is one. There is no virtue of an Arab over a foreigner nor a foreigner over an Arab, and neither white skin over black skin nor black skin over white skin, except by righteousness. Have I not delivered the message?) Musnad Ahmad 22978
Both Shahroz’s verse and the quote from the Qur’an implore us to look beyond race and color. Our existential purpose goes beyond the shades of our skin. Colonialism is a thing of the past. Let us keep it there along with its effects and consequences of division and self-hatred.
Shahroz is determined to educate and reach people through his songs and Muslim Girl is excited to be able to share his newest album with you. Gather your friends, set up a speaker and have a (halal) listening party followed by a discussion!